Council’s industry leading drone and machine-learning weed response

Drone Shot with Weeds Identified.jpg

Council’s biosecurity team gave a presentation to representatives of the NSW State Government and Local Land Services last Friday, 21 January 2022, to share the details of their industry leading drone and machine-learning driven weed detection program.

Council’s Biosecurity Officer Neil Murdoch, the program leader with a background in environmental science and technology, took attendees through the details of this innovative initiative with external technology partner Liam O’Duibhir from 2pi Software based out of Bega.

“Our Council is leading the way in combining cutting edge technology with local knowledge to manage weeds and invasive species in our region,” said Coordinator Biosecurity Brett Jones, Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

“We send our camera-equipped drone up over areas known or suspected to have populations of weeds. The drone flies passes over the area in a pre-determined grid, taking thousands of photos in a session.”

“The photos are stored in a huge cloud-based storage facility, then run through our custom-built software that identifies weeds from these high-altitude photos using tiny differences in colouration between the weeds and the surrounding plants and grassland.”

“Similar technologies are currently being used by the National Parks & Wildlife Service in their Orange Hawkweed control efforts, but we aim to provide a system that farmers and land managers alike can utilise for their own purposes, using small and affordable drones.”

Snowy Monaro Regional Council and 2pi Software have developed this technology to the point that it can now successfully pick out invasive weeds with orange flowers in a field dominated by native orange flowers, even from a height of 30 metres.

The Orange Hawkweed eradication program inspired the development of the technology and as it continues to develop, Council anticipates being able to remotely identify specific grassy weeds such as African Lovegrass out of a grass pasture.

“Using the technology to pick a green grass out of a green grass based pasture is a tough ask but it’s certainly not out of our reach now,” Mr Jones said.

Snowy Monaro Regional Council is leading the industry in the utilisation of the latest technology to serve local biosecurity needs and is unprecedented in local government in Australia.

For the full technical whitepaper and much more detail about the drone program and the machine-learning technology that underpins it, please visit https://2pisoftware.com/white-paper-african-lovegrass-cloud-based-shared-services-weeds-portal/

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